One of the unique things about reptiles is that they continue to grow throughout their lives and because their skin (or shell, in the case of turtles), does not grow larger, they shed their skin as they grow. Snakes shed their skin all at once and do so 2-4 times a year (the young even more often, as they are growing even faster). For all animals, molting is the process by which they get rid of or shed old feathers, hair or skin to make way for new growth.
God’s desire for us as believers is also that we grow spiritually our entire lives here on earth. It is easy to become too satisfied with our stage of growth or level of attainment and stop growing or going. We are comfortable where we are and don’t really want to venture out from where we are. Twice during Israel’s journey to the Promised Land, God had to rebuke them for staying too long. Moses records: “Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. And the LORD spoke to me, saying, ‘You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north’ ” (Dt. 2:1-3). They were camped adjacent to the region controlled by the descendants of Esau, the Edomites, and thus kinsmen of the Israelites, but God told them to go on north toward Canaan.
Long before, they had wanted to stay too long at Mount Sinai (also called “Horeb”) where God had given the law to Moses. But, Moses writes: “The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain…see, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give your fathers’ ” (Dt. 1:6,8).
It is possible for us to become too satisfied with where we are and what we are, when the Lord may well have something more for us to do, and definitely has more for us to become . Possibly, like Israel at Sinai, we may be content to stay in a situation where we have seen God work in the past. Or, like Israel at Edom’s Mount Seir, we want to stay in what we think may be friendly surroundings, rather than to venture into overtly enemy territory. Or, perhaps we have stayed long enough at a certain stage in our Christian growth or service, and God wants us to go further.
Paul wanted to continue preaching near his home in Asia Minor, but God said for him to go on into Europe (Acts 16:6-10). God may not be asking us to change location or position, but He does want us to go on further with Him. The last words written by Peter are profoundly important: “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (II Pet. 3:17,18).
Years after coming to know Christ as Savior, the Apostle Paul wrote: “That I might know Him and the power of His resurrection….not that I have already obtained it or become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:10-14). Paul obviously was motivated to keep going and growing his entire lifetime. Even when in prison in Rome and awaiting death he wrote to Timothy asking him to “bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments” (II Tim. 4:13). Paul wanted to keep reading, studying and growing right up to the very end. Thus he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (v. 7).
As we grow, like the reptiles, we need to “shed our old skin” occasionally to make room for the growth. Paul put it this way: “That in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:22-24). The writer of Hebrews exhorted believers to “Lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Heb. 12:1,2).
No matter where you are in your spiritual growth process, don’t stop there! Keep going and growing. Like the Apostle Paul, none of us has “arrived.” There is lots of room for growth, especially when you shed that “old skin” as often as needed! If you think you’re green you’re growing. If you think you are ripe (done maturing), you are rotten! Something to think about!
Forever His and still growing,